Saturday, November 24, 2007

Congrats to Australia's Labor Party, hurray for one less climate change denier on the world stage...

It's always a wonderful thing to see a progressive party sweep aside a neo-conservative government, especially in a place like Australia which has many similarities with Canada.

Check out ABC's website coverage of Kevin Rudd's big win here.

This result is sweeter because defeated neo-con John Howard was not only a close colleague of our own Prime Minister Stephen Harper, but this means one less climate change denier on the world stage, and less support for George Bush's Iraq fiasco. All in all, a great day for progressive-minded people in the Commonwealth.

Speaking of which, now Stephen Harper is truly officially isolated as the lone voice obstructing action on this issue amongst Commonwealth countries.

Apparently, our national government - elected solely because voters were tired of the scandal-plagued Liberals - is fighting like mad to stop a proposed statement by Commonwealth countries that would bind Canada to cutting greenhouse gas emissions substantially. Harper's problem: the wording of the statement targets developed countries, not developing countries.

"We are not blocking a binding target," the Prime Minister's spokeswoman, Sandra Buckler, has said. "We are, however, looking for a declaration that is as strong as the APEC declaration [which was agreed to by China and the United States] in terms of the importance of comprehensiveness — that all countries, notably major emitters, must contribute to reducing [greenhouse-gas] emissions. We would not support a binding target only for some emitters, especially if that excludes major emitters."

Of course, the APEC declaration Buckler refers to only sets aspirational — voluntary — emissions reductions targets for major emitters. Voluntary reductions of course means no substantial action to fight the climate change crisis we are facing. The issue here isn't getting China and the USA to agree, the issue here for Harper is stopping any binding targets, either in the developed or developing world. How despicable.

The sooner Canada elects Stephane Dion the better!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Friday Funny: '300' Parody from 'Robot Chicken'

Check out this absolutely hilarious spoof of the feature film "300" by the geniuses who make the popular cult series "Robot Chicken."

Harper government slowly bleeding AIDS groups dry

This is disturbing, but again unsurprising. Who says Stephen Harper needs a majority to re-make this country in his own neo-con image?

As of early November, the Conservative government hadn't decided which groups across the country serving people with AIDS would get federal cash in 2008 and 2009, according to documents obtained by Capital Xtra.

Public Health Agency of Canada faxed a letter to organizations who run AIDS programming on Nov 9 saying that the AIDS Community Action Program would see a short-term extension until March 2009. It also suggests cash will only be available to groups already receiving money. And it comes with a warning.

"All Grants and Contribution programs are currently being reviewed to ensure that they are closely aligned with the Agency's priorities, current research and evidence," says the letter.

Without a majority, this is how the Tories prefer to put their socially conservative stamp on the country: by stealth. They pulled similar moves last year when they removed the word "equality" from the Status of Women mandate and shut down the Court Challenges Program, among other changes.

Just think about what legislative changes the Harper government would embrace if it had a majority...

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Cardinal Ouellet's small first step & Dion's good move

Let me add my voice in reaction to yesterday's open letter from Canada's senior Roman Catholic clergyman Cardinal Marc Ouellet. His full letter can be found here.

The Cardinal's letter was itself a reaction to the hostility he received last month after testifying at the Bouchard-Taylor 'reasonable accommodations' commission. Some also say he's trying to reposition the church, which has largely fallen out of favour in the secular province.

In his letter, the Cardinal recognized that priests sexually abused children and scolded women for not bearing more children.

"These scandals shook the confidence of the people toward religious authorities, and we understand that," Cardinal Ouellet wrote. "Forgive us for all this harm!"

The line that got my attention was this:

"As Archbishop of Quebec and Primate of Canada, I recognize that the narrow attitudes of certain Catholics, prior to 1960, favoured anti-Semitism, racism, indifference toward First Nations and discrimination against women and homosexuals."

Of course, the narrow attitudes of certain Catholics (and others) after 1960 have also caused great harm and continue to do so.

Still when I first heard about this open letter yesterday, the cynic in me fully expected the apology to be directed toward everybody except for homosexuals. For the Cardinal to mention "homosexuals" as being undeserving of abuse they've received and to issue an apology is very significant. This follows years of the Cardinal attacking equal treatment under civil marriage laws, so obviously the Church is not guilt-free when it comes to spreading, shall we say, indifference or disregard to the lives and loves of we friends of Dorothy.

But I will admit this was a small first step by the Cardinal in reckoning for the wrongs of the past.


On another note, I'm very happy to see that Liberal Leader Stephane Dion and his team in Ottawa have taken up the cause of Ontario's under-representation in the federal parliament and come to the defence of Premier McGuinty (who faced snide and small-minded attacks this week from Tory Anti-Democratic Reform Minister Peter Van Loan). This is very smart.


I came across this site recently - truly disgusting propaganda, is all I can say about it.

It's always annoying that far-right extremists can co-opt the term "conservative" to suit their own over-the-top ends. I know many decent, reasonable, moderate conservatives who aren't raving, far-right loonies like the people who set up this site. I guess those moderate conservatives will just have to keep using Wikipedia?

Check out the stats on the most popular pages on this extremist site to find out the kinds of people who frequent it. Once again, the far-right's strange obsession with hot man-on-man action continues. What are they telling us?

If nothing else, this proves that just because you can publish an article on a website ending with "...pedia" doesn't mean there's any truth to the content.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Spooky Day hurting the Harper government

For the latest bit of proof of this, check out yesterday's Toronto Star editorial. I couldn't agree more.

Stockwell Day's initial reaction to the tragic death last week of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski was to lecture Canadians for not being as outraged over impaired driving deaths (as if we aren't). It was a typical Day/neo-con extremist response. If the victim isn't someone most neo-cons can relate to, it's not that important and the issue can be skirted and minimized.

Every time Day opens his mouth and the super 'Public Safety Minister' appears below him on the news or in Parliament, a chill goes down my spine. I'll never forget how much of a wacko leader he turned out to be. I don't think most moderate Canadians will forget that either. The fact Day continues to hold such power in the Harper government scares the crap out of me. We know he's got a huge following in the Conservative Party's grassroots and among the extremist Christian community in Canada (all one per cent of them.) That's why Harper keeps him in place and seems to give him more free rein to make dumb public comments like this. It sure does keep those extremist Christian dollars flowing into Conservative Party coffers.

As I've said before, Day is a nutbar and most mainstream Canadians know it. He often seems to be holding back, frequently on the cusp of saying what's really on his mind. These boys can never be trusted with anything close to a majority.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Away from Her: One of the most brilliant cinematic portraits of love I've ever seen

I realize I'm several months behind on this (as this film debuted last year at the Toronto International Film Festival), but I finally had a chance to view Sarah Polley's quiet masterpiece, 'Away from Her' over the weekend and wanted to write about it.

If you haven't had a chance to see this film (and judging from its respectable, yet small box office in limited release earlier this year, you haven't), you should definitely consider seeing one of the best films of the year.

I'll admit, the subject matter about an older couple (Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent, pictured) struggling to deal with the onset of Alzheimer's disease might deter some viewers looking for a quick or dumb Blockbuster fix. Yet you'd be missing a quiet gem and one of the best Canadian films in years. I don't recall seeing a more beautiful portrait of selfless love in a movie (from any nation) than this.

Based on a short story by Alice Munro, the film follows the sudden degeneration of Julie Christie's character Fiona and her husband Grant's struggles to assist her. She makes it difficult for him (and the film hints this may or may not be due to the disease). Her condition becomes so bad she decides to check in to a nearby seniors' care facility. While there, her memories of her marriage seem to fade entirely and she develops an affection for another man, leaving Pinsent's Grant in a funk. Grant then figures out a beautiful way to possibly bring his wife, growing increasingly depressed and remote, some possible happiness.

Most people will see this movie to check out Julie Christie's exquisite performance. She is mesmerizing for every second of her time on screen. The rest of the cast circle around this screen icon and give perfect performances, especially Pinsent. There has been talk of late that Christie will win another Oscar nod for this performance, which would be a delight. I also hope that Pinsent will be acknowledged by the Academy, either in the Lead Actor or Supporting Actor categories. Polley, as writer and director, may also be acknowledged by the Hollywood elites. How wonderful that would be and ironic for an artist who has shunned the Hollywood lifestyle for years. I'm sure this film will dominate the upcoming Canadian Genie Awards, with Pinsent and Christie in their respective leading Acting categories, and Polley in both the writing and directing categories.

The ending brought me to quiet tears. It's been a while since a film made me cry, I tend to be a hard emotional nut to crack. So when it happens, I must take note. I intend to buy this movie.

Polley's achievement here is absolutely astonishing. At such a young age (28), Polley has written and directed a quiet masterpiece about the tragedies that can occur at the end of relationships and the undying and complicated power of love. I won't forget this film.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

NDP crushed in Saskatchewan heartland, will media pundits now gang up on Jack Layton too?

Hmmmm...Just wanted to point out something. The Liberals lose in one Montreal by-election in September and all hell breaks loose, the media start printing any and all utterances of discontent from Liberal party workers on the nation's front pages and declare that Stephane Dion's leadership is hanging by a thread.

Meanwhile, the NDP under Jack Layton fails to elect a single MP in the party's cradle of Saskatchewan in two elections, where the old CCF was born, and nobody seems to notice. The NDP won five seats in Saskatchewan both in 1993 and 1997, dropping to two MPs in 2000. But when city slicker Jack took over, the NDP dropped to zero in 2004 and again zero in 2006. Prospects for electing federal Dippers in that province in the next election remain bleak. Yes the NDP was more popular in Saskatchewan under Alexa McDonough than under Layton.

Now the NDP has been crushed in the provincial election in Saskatchewan, losing by almost 15 percentage points to the centre-right Saskatchewan Party.

Should we expect new commentary now on how Jack Layton continues to have zero traction in such an important NDP province, how Layton was no help to his provincial counterparts and how this loss by the Saskatchewan NDP is a further blow to Layton's leadership and prospects there? If one NDP worker in Saskatoon now says Layton isn't popular on the Prairies, will it make the front page of the Globe & Mail? Looking through today's post-election news coverage, it doesn't seem so thus far. Strange that.

Friday, November 2, 2007

"Democracy has gone wrong in my Conservative Party," says former Guelph Tory MP

Great coverage today in Guelph's local weekly on this week's ouster of local Tory candidate Brent Barr.

It goes without saying the decision to oust two democratically nominated Conservative candidates hasn't gone over too well for Stephen Harper's backroom manipulators.

The fact both candidates were considered moderates within the party cements the fear those in control of this new Conservative Party are still very much of the old Reform Party ilk.

Ousted because he wanted to raise urban issues in his downtown Toronto riding, the treatment of Mark Warner should concern every urban Canadian. Suddenly, our federal government has decided issues of concern to urban dwellers seem to be of no relevance to the national agenda, or at least the Conservative national agenda. Royson James wrote an excellent piece today on how this move not only writes off Toronto, but all growing urban centres in the country.

But the removal of democratically elected candidate Brent Barr in Guelph continues to mystify. Barr, by any standard, was an excellent candidate, urbane, successful in business, well-spoken, and yes moderate on social issues. There seems to be little reason for removing someone as qualified as Barr.

The last non-Liberal to represent the Guelph area in the House of Commons, Bill Winegard (who served as a cabinet minister in Brian Mulroney's government) probably speaks for most old-time Tories in the area when he said, "I think democracy has gone wrong in my Conservative Party," Winegard said. "Something has gone wrong."

Barr hasn't ruled out running as an independent against whoever the Tories end up appointing to replace him. I hope he does as it would likely bury the Tory appointee's chances in Guelph.

On cue, already the woman Barr beat for the nomination isn't ruling out seizing the crown she lost earlier this year. Gloria Kovach claims she was shocked to learn of Barr's removal this week. But she added she thought this decision, "...would never have been made by the party lightly. So I believe it would have been made in the best interests of Guelph. I don't believe it should hurt whoever the candidate would be."

Whoever is chosen to be the next candidate "has an excellent chance of representing Guelph, because the government is doing a great job," she adds.

Hmmmm....She certainly sounds like someone about to be handed the Tory nod by party brass over the wishes of local party members.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Harper fires two pro-equality Conservative candidates, overthrows local nominations

Tory thug Prime Minister Stephen Harper has suddenly sacked two of his most progressive candidates set to run in the upcoming federal election.

Both Mark Warner in Toronto Centre and Brent Barr in Guelph had won their local nominations last spring.

Allegedly, they've been ousted because the central party didn't like how they were campaigning locally. Warner had been attempting to play up issues of concern in his downtown Toronto riding such as housing, health care and cities issues. Warner said the party had been fighting him on these issues, even blocking him from participating in a Star forum on poverty earlier this year and pointedly removing from his campaign literature a reference to the 2006 international conference on AIDS in Toronto – which Warner attended but Prime Minister Stephen Harper did not.

Warner is also in favour of same-sex marriage.

Connie Harrison, a downtown Toronto poverty and housing activist, was shocked to hear about how the Tories had dumped Warner, a black man, born in Trinidad and Tobago, who immigrated to Canada as child in the 1960s and went on to attend Osgoode Hall law school and have a significant career in international trade law.

"They want to prove that they are not scary. It's behaviour like this that tells the rest of us, yes they are," Harrison said yesterday.

Brent Barr ran in the 2006 election in the Guelph riding and managed to increase Tory support there from 25% to 30% (roughly the same increase for the party overall in Ontario). He says he's been campaigning hard since winning the local nomination again this past spring. Barr, too, was one of the few Tory candidates actually in favour of same-sex marriage. He suspects he's been pushed aside to make way for a star candidate in the traditionally-swing riding.

"The Conservative party is ignoring the democratic will of our membership, our volunteers and the over 18,500 people who voted for me last year," says Barr.

I'll be watching very closely to see who the Tories appoint to replace these progressive-minded candidates. Very scary, indeed.